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Confidence soars and job prospects on site improve, but long-term stability is still needed, warns RICS Output hits six-year high

CONSTRUCTION output rose to its highest level for six years in the first three months of the year.

And job prospects for site workers are also better, according to separate surveys out this week.

But the signs in the longer term are that the industry's workloads may be levelling out.

The latest survey from the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors reports that rising workloads in the housing and commercial sectors and continued strength in the South-East have helped increase confidence for the next three months.

Trevor Mole, RICS construction spokesman, said: 'Rising workload and profitability, particularly in the South-East and isolated areas elsewhere, are driving up employment demand.

'People in the less-thriving North are being attracted south to work in areas which are finding it difficult to recruit.'

He added: 'The survey results are generally encouraging, but long-term security and optimism is still very much needed.'

While strong performance in the South-East has kept workload high, the Scottish market has also rebounded strongly after six months of weakness.

Activity has also picked up in Wales, especially in the industrial and commercial sectors.

Contractors are expecting profit margins to rise at a faster pace than envisaged in the last three months of 1999.

Confidence in rising margins is strongest in the South-East and Wales and weakest in the North and Midlands.

Figures from employment service Manpower paint an encouraging picture for private building. They reveal that nearly one-third of private builders are planning to take on more workers in the next three months. Only 5 per cent of them are planning to reduce the number of workers.